Every year thousands of college students transfer to four-year institutions to complete their bachelor’s degrees. The process of choosing the next institution and navigating the transition can be intimidating. How do I know which school to pick? Will my credits transfer? How can I get acclimated to my new campus quickly? We talked with five students who successfully transferred and are now thriving at a Minnesota private college or university. Although each had unique circumstances in their education plans, they consistently shared the same pieces of advice to help the transfer process go smoothly.
Reach out early
Enrolled in a large university on the West coast, Sailor Mohlenbrock was looking for a smaller campus, where she could get to know people better and chose to transfer to Bethany Lutheran College. “The university was just too big. I just didn’t feel comfortable going back. My sister recommended Bethany, which was just 45 minutes from my home. So, I checked them out online.”
Although Mohlenbrock needed to switch majors since Bethany did not have a marine biology program, she found math education to be a great fit, but her timeline was quite short since she made her decision just before her school break was over. Because of that, Mohlenbrock stressed reaching out sooner in the process. “Talk to the college or university early, apply early. Doing everything in the last-minute puts unnecessary pressure on you and the college.” She reached out to a Bethany transfer counselor who guided her through the steps to enroll and get started.
Once on campus, Mohlenbrock wasted no time getting to know other students, her professors and visiting offices. “Spend time in the library, getting to know where everything is before you need to use those services.”
Do your homework
Alicia Honken also found a home at Bethany. The biology major previously had studied at another four-year university and then completed some training with the Air National Guard. When she was ready to return to college, Honken had specific criteria in mind, including finding one that also would accept her military credits. “Know what you are looking for. Whether it is the size of the campus, or the atmosphere, do your homework. Visit a bunch of colleges too.”
Finding a place that matched her faith background also was a key factor in her choosing Bethany Lutheran College. She has also appreciated being able to live on campus. Honken advises students to get involved. “Live in the resident hall, at least for one semester. It’s the best way to get to know others. Participating in activities around campus helps you make friends too.”
Greta Almlie graduated from a big high school and attended a large, midwestern university “I thought that was what I wanted. I didn’t love it and knew I needed smaller classes,” she said. For Almie, visiting a variety of campuses was vital to learn which one fit her best for transferring. “Visit the campus. You know when it clicks; it’s the place for you. You will know ‘I belong here’.”
Greta chose to transfer to Concordia College in Moorhead. She reached out to the college’s transfer specialist 10 months in advance to see if her courses would transfer. That allowed her to adjust her schedule to make sure everything would transfer towards Concordia’s business management and communications studies majors. She found working with her transfer specialist reassuring and the process easy. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talking with the transfer counselor really helped me navigate the transfer path.”
Get oriented when you start up
Also a transfer to Concordia College, Jaime Dodson came from a community college where she completed some general coursework to save some money, but she always knew transferring was part of her plan to pursue math education. She had visited Concordia while in high school and wanted to eventually land there. “I reached out to Concordia’s transfer staff eight months before I transferred to make sure all my courses would transfer. They made the process very easy and were very helpful along the way.”
Many colleges and universities offer a transfer orientation, which is usually optional. Dodson recommends attending it anyway. “Once on campus, even just the first week, take advantage of the transfer orientation if offered. It helped me get into the groove of the school and meet other new transfer students.”
Dodson also encouraged students to reach out to faculty. “Take advantage of their office hours or talking with them before or after class. All these things will help you get comfortable on campus.” Because transfer students dive into the courses for a major right away, reaching out to faculty helps students connect to opportunities such as department scholarships, internships and research.
Consider pathways to majors
Like Dodson, Theophilus (Theo) Addotte Wayo transferred from a local community college and is now a junior studying biology at Augsburg University. When searching for his next school he had several criteria in mind. First, he wanted to find a place that felt right. “Schedule a campus tour. If you know you will be happy there, you will be motivated to study. I found the exact place I could study while on tour.”
He also wanted to make sure his next school would accept the biology pathway courses he took at the community college. “If you know your major, do the pathway. It is much easier to transfer knowing you are taking the right courses.” Wayo suggests contacting the transfer specialists early in the process and asking for an unofficial transcript evaluation. “Together, with the transfer specialists, we looked over my course schedule and I was able to make a change that worked better to prepare me for courses at Augsburg.”
Talking with the admission office early provided additional financial opportunities. Wayo learned he could apply to Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) while at his community college prior to applying to Augsburg. “This gave me an additional scholarship, which really helped.” He also connected with the STEM program before enrolling, which provided additional scholarships, mentors in his major and early research opportunities.
“Go for it, be bold”
All five students agreed on some of the key steps, as Wayo summed up: “Contact admissions early, request an unofficial transcript review, tour the campus and ask lots of questions.”
It can take time for new transfer students to get comfortable on campus, these five acknowledged. “As a transfer student, there was an odd feeling not knowing everyone in my graduating class,” Dodson said, “but that’s okay. I’ve gotten to know a wider range of students on campus, all different ages and that’s great too.”
“It’s a hard decision to transfer,” Almlie said. “I thought about it for months and asked a lot of people along the way. Go for it, be bold. I’m so glad I did.”